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6 Bhopal Gas Tragedy Survivors Died Due to Hospital Negligence After Contracting Covid-19, Says Group

Image for representation

Image for representation

In a letter addressed to a Supreme Court-appointed monitoring committee, the groups have shared details of six gas disaster victims who died in the isolation ward as, allegedly, there was no full-time doctor posted and no treatment for Covid-19 being administered to these patients.

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Vivek Trivedi

Organisations working with the survivors of the 1984 Union Carbide disaster have accused the Bhopal Memorial Hospital & Research Centre (BMHRC) of criminal negligence and mismanagement after six victims of the gas tragedy who recently contracted Covid-19 died in the institute's isolation ward over the past fortnight.

In a letter addressed to a Supreme Court-appointed monitoring committee, the groups have shared details of six gas tragedy victims who died in the isolation ward as, allegedly, there was no full-time doctor posted and no treatment for Covid-19 being administered to these patients.

BMHRC is a super-speciality hospital built to cater to the medical needs of Bhopal gas victims and is currently being run by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

While the gas disaster victims (Covid positive and suspect) are left to die in the isolation ward of BMHRC, what is even more diabolical is that such survivors, in need of ICU facilities, pulmonary, neurology, gastro-surgery and neurosurgery, etc, are being refused admission in the hospital, they said in a statement.

Data obtained under the Right to Information (RTI) Act clearly shows that almost all of these departments have reduced admission of gas tragedy victims by two to 11 times when compared to non-Covid times.

"BMHRC's motto, 'In service of gas victims', and this hospital is doing every disservice possible by wilfully ignoring the medical needs of the most vulnerable population to Covid-19. ICMR is supposed to be guiding the country in dealing with Covid-19, and in Bhopal they have completely failed to do so," the organisations said.

City facing shortage of oxygen & ICU facilities for Covid patients

"Keeping the vulnerability of the gas tragedy victims in view, BMHRC should have prepared for this crisis. We are hopeful that the Monitoring Committee will direct BMHRC to start a 40 ICU & HDU (high dependency unit) bed unit to cater to gas victims suffering from Covid-19 at the earliest," said Rachna Dhingra of Bhopal Group for Information & Action.

Data from eight community health units of the ICMR-run Bhopal Memorial Hospital & Research Centre (BMHRC) in the city from 1998 to 2016 shows that 50.4% of poisonous gas-affected patients suffer from cardiovascular problems, 59.6% of them suffer from pulmonary problems and 15.6% from diabetes.

Further, according to the records of the Office of the Welfare Commissioner, Bhopal Gas Victims, 10,550 (1.84% of the gas-exposed population) have been granted ex gratia compensation as cancer patients.

In March 2020 a letter addressed to DG, ICMR by the survivor groups had stated that due to multi-systemic damage caused as a result of the exposure to toxic gases of Union Carbide, it would be safe to say that the over half a million Bhopal residents exposed to the toxic gases are at least five times more vulnerable to Covid-19 than the general population.

"Our letter, which had categorically stated that unless urgent steps are taken by ICMR too many local residents could suffer from Covid-19 and die from it, fell on deaf ears. We painstakingly collect information of every city's Covid-19 deaths and more than 60% of the city's Covid-19 deaths are of Bhopal gas victims whereas they only constitute 25% of the city's population," they added.

The groups said they will bring up the dire situation of Bhopal gas disaster victims in relation to Covid-19 and the BMHRC’s negligence in a writ petition pending before the Madhya Pradesh High Court on October 7, 2020 where the state health secretary has also been summoned.


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